Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents

Adult children of narcissistic parents can have some pretty unique problems in life. Narcissism always damages relationships. And narcissistic parenting particularly takes a toll on children.  All children are different. So, each child’s experience with a narcissistic parent can affect them quite differently. Many other variables affect how a parent’s narcissism harms a child, too. And in the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at several of them.

Some adult children of narcissistic parents struggle with chronic feelings of insecurity. Others have difficulty developing a healthy, stable sense of self. Sadly, still others end up repeating many of the same patterns and behaviors that so negatively affected their character development. It’s almost impossible for narcissistic parents not to damage a child’s self-image. But exactly what kind of damage they inflict can vary considerably.

Growing Up under the Shadow of the Gaslight

Last week, I wrote about narcissists always having to be right. (See: Why Narcissists Always Have to Be Right.) This can profoundly damage a child’s development. Children need to learn what’s real and what isn’t. And they need to learn what’s true and what isn’t. These are inherently difficult tasks, even in the best of circumstances. But they become almost impossible when you’re parented by a narcissist. For many narcissists, reality is what they say it is. And truth is how they choose to define it. They respect no higher power or authority. So, they don’t  subordinate themselves to any more objective standard of judgment.

Adult children of narcissistic parents can spend years overcoming the effects of childhood gaslighting. That’s the crazy-making feeling narcissists can give you, especially the covert ones. Deep down, you sense they’re trying to tear you down. But then they insist you’re imagining it. Or you sense they’re misrepresenting things. But they’ll somehow convince you that you’re the one who’s confused. I introduced this concept in the very first edition of In Sheep’s Clothing. But at the time, we didn’t have a word for it. And we didn’t know as much about it as we do today. Still, it’s a very real and most unfortunate phenomenon.

Narcissists make you doubt yourself. You can even begin to doubt your sanity. But the worst thing that can happen is when you begin to doubt who you truly are. Narcissists are good at subtly belittling and demeaning. And when someone tells you often enough that you just don’t get it or don’t measure up, it leaves a mark. The damage is even worse when they preach how much they love you but their actions say otherwise.

(For more, see: Gaslighting Victims Question Their Sanity.)

Repeating the Pattern

Adult children of narcissistic parents can unwittingly repeat destructive patterns. And they can do this in many different ways. We’ll be exploring some of those ways in the coming weeks.


Check the PESI website in about a month for the new and admittedly limited workshop schedule.

And look for an announcement soon about the upcoming release of the Spanish Language edition of In Sheep’s Clothing.

7 thoughts on “Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents

  1. I look forward to this, maybe I will gain some insight about my son and daughter, their Dad was a narcissist and I see very similar patterns in them.

  2. Looking forward to reading more. It will help me to spot my errors in thinking and behaving as well as help me to understand my daughter as well. They are learned attitudes and behaviors.

    As an aside. I normally subscribe so I can keep up on comments by email, but the spammers are getting out of hand and filling up the mailbox. Dr. Simon, any way to weed them out/block them?

  3. It’s really hard growing up with a narcissist seemed like the longest time ever I thought I was crazy,she had me on A.D.D. medicine at age 6..then to top it off dealing with the spiritual and ritualistic trauma..I’m not a victim any more and I definitely know I’m not crazy..I’m very empathetic and caring of others..something she doesn’t have..I know we all are equal.. I dont regret growing up experiencing the things I have been subjected too..its all made me a stronger person and has taught me some very major life lessons..its just hard seeing how once I woke up and realized I wasn’t crazy and that it was her that had some serious core issues and character flaws..she knew she didnt have that power over me any more, but before I became fully aware of how she was using my energy as energy to feed off of, it was too late she had done played the roll of the devil himself and tricked me in the most major way and that’s when she played on me and truly had me convinced that I was the problem and it was just all in my head, she played on me and took advantage of me for it..and that’s where I made the biggest mistake of my entire life, I thought I was doing what was best for my son by signing my parental rights over to her..she promised me I was doing what was best for him..she said she would never keep me from him or out of his life..but as soon as I signed her the rights to him I noticed her true intentions coming out..she gaslights me everywhere I live.she is the point of where its son constantly is naked when I come home..she always crawls out of bed with no pants on..and spanks him with different items, spoons,cooking spatulas..and I call her out and make sure to put clothes on him every time I see her letting him think it’s ok for him to be naked..and I’m very kind hearted and just redirect him in positive ways..she tells me I’m such a horrible father..but I dont let it even effect me when she says that because I know I’m a damn good father and I’m very protective over him and his wellbeing comes before mine and my freedom.. I have reported her twice to the police and made two different reports of her abusing my son..I was the whistleblower..I stood up for him and did what I was supposed to do as a father protecting my son would do..but ohh boy let me tell that opened up the gates to hell for me after that, boy did she retaliate on me for exposing her,ten days exactly after I reported her abusing my son to the police when I went out for my birthday to spend the night out with friends, when I came home the next day my son pulled me aside and told me my mom was hurting him when I was gone that night before,and I asked her how she was hurting him and he pointed to his but and how she was spanking him and that’s when I noticed on both his arms human bite Mark’s, so I made videos of the Mark’s on him and told her that I was going to make a police report, then as I told her I wasn’t going to file the report with the police for the second time on her abusing my son, that’s when my son fell into one of the ritualistic mind control alters,my son wouldnt even respond to me,he was is a zombie like state..she buys him Halloween mask, and let’s him watch Michael Myers and Jason, but when I’m around I dont let him watch that kind of stuff..I only let him watch positive happy stuff..I know that the horror movies and mask are used to split the alters..its some kind of sick cult conditioning they use to install fear ..its sick..sick this is the worse kind of pain to go through seeing this being done to my son by my own mom…I have went to the cops and made two different reports on her doing this..and the last time ten days later after I made the report she starts an argument with me then calls the cops on me and has them arrest me for false terrorist threats..retaliation for exposing her.. do I regret standing up for my son..nope not one bit..I stood up for him because he is a kid and dont have the voice to speak for him self.. the only thing I’m afraid of is I dont want to be split up from him ever..he need me very much so to be in his life by his side..and I need him in my life by his side..I know him and I will need lots of counseling and therapy, but I know I’m a good daddy and with giving the chance and the narricst to not be in so much control over him and I then my son and I would have a real chance at recovery togather..I’m not giving up..and I’m not falling for her tricks any further..she had me convinced I was crazy when I was younger..but I’m grown and see things for what they are….I’m sorry i wrote so much..but I’m just venting for myself and for my own healing..thanks for your time and support..Logan

  4. My the mother/grandmother were avoidant, dependant, narcissisic ,sadistic, borderlines.

    After waisting two thirds of my life trying to change them. I walked away.
    And so far thing have got better. The scares will never heal, the wounds run to deep for that.
    Just keep moving forward, take every day as it comes and never loose faith in yourself

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